“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage … They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” (Mt 2: 2, 10-11, Gospel excerpt, Epiphany Sunday)

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him … Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” (Jn 1:32, Gospel excerpt, 2nd Sunday on Ordinary Time)

These two Scripture passages share a commonality. Both describe an appearance of the divine in space and time, also known as an Epiphany, “A Concise Dictionary of Theology.” The term “theophany” is another term used to explain a visible manifestation of God.

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Our Catholic faith celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord two Sundays after Christmas, thus concluding the season. (Aside … for those along the Gulf South, it is also known as King’s Day, which begins the Mardi Gras season.) The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in paragraph 528, “The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the Wise Men (Magi) from the East together with his baptism in the Jordan. The Magi began their spiritual journey motivated by the revelation of God manifested in nature. After guiding the Magi to the Christ Child, the purpose of the star had ended. Henceforth the light of Christ himself guides the people to God” (CCC 439, 528). God’s plan of salvation is open to all who “follow the star.” The result of an encounter with Jesus is the transformation from being a mere follower to becoming a real believer.

Similarly, we hear John the Baptist’s testimony of the Epiphany at the baptism of Jesus. God’s manifestation comes from his voice, with the son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The once waters reserved for repentance and preparation are now transformed sacramentally for forgiveness and the regeneration of grace. Those now plunged into the waters of baptism of God incarnate are no longer sojourners but heirs.

These are extraordinary encounters with God. Even more so, they describe a personal encounter with Jesus. The heartbeat of our faith is to personally encounter Jesus, to deepen our faith each day and to share our encounter and faith with others. Instead of giving gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we give Jesus our very being. Our gold is the treasury of truth, our frankincense is our prayer and our myrrh is the self-sacrifice we make for others each and every day.

But the greatest gift we can share is the love of Christ with all we meet. Despite the lack of charity we see in the media, love does exist. We are to be confident in this and express it each day. Encountering Jesus means crossing all barriers and lines drawn by negativity, hatred and false reporting. We are disciples, not ostriches. To bury our head in the sand means to extinguish the stars which lead the Magi to Jesus. God tells Isaiah (49:6), “I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” We are the light to the nations. We are his messengers of salvation. We are his heirs. We are his epiphany. Go and be a manifestation of Jesus for others to see the glory of God. For they will know we are Christians by our love. Amen. Happy New Year!

“Let us, therefore, offer gold unto the new-born Lord, that we may confess his universal rule; let us offer unto him frankincense, that we may believe that he who has appeared in time, was God before time was; let us offer him myrrh, that, just as we believe him not subject to suffering in his divinity, we may also believe that he was mortal in our flesh.” (From Pope St. Gregory the Great’s 10th homily on the Gospels; read in the Breviary of St. Pius V on the third day within the Octave of Epiphany.)

Dow is the director of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.